To my Pagan Friends at Easter -
Re-reading the documents in this section, I realized that my treatment of certain topics that some Neopagans take seriously must sound flippant and disrespectful. If so, I apologize. I would never dream of being flippant or disrespectful toward any religious element that can actually trace its origins back through history, as the basic religious elements of Hundus, Muslims, Jains, Jews, and Buddhists can.
by Paul Race, from Family Christmas Online™
I'll even admit that there are elements of Neopaganism that legitimately trace to ancient days. If you really believe that worshiping some historical ancient deity satisfies all your spiritual needs, I'll disagree, but I'll do so agreeably, I hope (though I will draw the line at things like pogroms, human sacrifice, cult pedophilia, and beheading infidels.)
In addition, if you tell me that an ancient religion passed down through your family mandates certain things - like avoiding yeast one week a year, or prohibits certain things, like eating beef, I will respect that belief - something you would witness if you ever saw me planning a "lunch out" for my Hindu and Muslim coworkers.
But if you expect me to take your religion seriously, and it turns out you're talking about your "Jedi church" (or anything else that was invented in relatively modern times by, say, science fiction or fairy tale writers), I may not be as sympathetic. When a person takes a religion that is patently not serious seriously, I can't take their "devotion" as seriously as I probably should.
What stood out in my study of Eostre and related mythologies is that - except for Eostre's name - everything we "know" about Eostra and her hypothetical German equivalent Ostara was invented in 1835 or later.
What really put me off is certain folks' annual broadcasting of "Easter is not a Christian holiday" blogs, citing 19th-century urban legends as "facts" and claiming that everything about Easter (including sometimes the Resurrection itself) was really stolen from the hypothetical worship of a hypothetical goddess.
As for the other deities that Neopagans honor, I have very little opinion, because those deities aren't trotted out once a year as a reason to "discredit" my belief system and culture.
That said, there is a bigger picture. How about you? Can you take your own religion seriously, whatever it is? This issue is not restricted to any particular belief system. After all, the U.S. is full of de facto agnostics who still go to church at Christmas and Easter. And I confess to knowing Hindus and Jews who only visit Temple or Synagogue when their parents are in town.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the original inventor of the "four stages of grief" did her research working among terminally ill patients. Thought she went "off the deep end" later, I believe her report that, in the final hours before death, devout believers tend to be at peace, along with ardent atheists. The patients who show the most fear when facing imminent death are those who have simply dabbled in religion.
If what you fancy to be your "religion" is really a sort of cause or hobby or roleplay or something else that you can pick up and put down as needed, I challenge you to find a faith that will honestly sustain you during the dark hours as well as your leisure hours.
As an example of a faith that sustains you (and not the other way around), please let me use the example of my faith, one that goes back millennia and which goes against the "grain" of most religions. Instead of placating the god(s) and serving them/him/her to earn favor, Christians believe that the true Divinity has already been placated. We enter into fellowship with that Divinity by accepting that sacrifice and turning our lives over to the One who provided the sacrifice. Our service, then, comes, not as a means to earn divine favor, but as the outworking of a thankful heart.
True, most non-Christians I talk to about this think they have "seen through" Christianity. Many think that infantile arguments like "where did Cain get his wife?" settle the case, or that fringe nutcases speak for the rest of us, or that Dan Brown's fantasy novels tell the "real story."
Most Americans, at least, believe that the shallow exposure they've received through popular culture tells them every thing they ever need to know about Jesus and His teachings. Sadly, that includes many people who call themselves Christians, especially when responding to Gallup polls or during elections when they vote the way big-business and gun company-financed TV ads have told them is the "Christian" way to vote.
But for those of you who think you've "seen through" Christianity, how can you honestly claim to have "seen through" something you have never taken a good look at?
Whatever your background, let me encourage you to find a faith that will sustain you through the dark hours. For my part, I would challenge you to "get to know" the Jesus of the New Testament. Use an easy translation, like the New International Version or the New Living Bible. (If you'd rather use a more literal, if more difficult translation, you can download the New American Standard Bible free onto your Kindle, phone or tablet.) Read the book of John first, if you want - it's an easy read. Follow up with Mark, if you want - it goes quickly. If each book doesn't tell you ten things you never knew about Jesus, I'll be very surprised. Matthew has some of Jesus' most amazing teachings, and Luke provides the most historical background. If you get stumped on something, drop me a line, and I'll try to walk you through it.
As you can probably tell, Jesus is real to me - a real Person with Whom I interact through prayer, worship, and often (but not always) a sense of His presence. He guides me in the right path, even if it's not the comfortable one, and He has been there during the dark hours. Yes, there are many whose "Christianity" is for show or convenience, or even for profit or political gain. But there are many whose Christian faith has cost them literally everything that the non-believing world holds dear, and who are still glad to be believers.
Back to my overall topic, everyone needs faith in something or Someone. Faith is not a joke - it's the anchor that holds you steady when your entire world has come apart. If I seem to be hard on religious dabblers (even self-identified "Christian" religious dabblers), it's because faith matters. If your religion is really a sort of hobby, like needlepoint, or something you are "trying out" like you might try on a pair of boots, or something you chose because it required the fewest adjustments to your attitude and lifestyle, it will be no comfort when you really need it.
I firmly believe that there will be eternal consequences to your decision. But speaking as a friend, I urge you to look for a faith that keeps you, not the other way around. Or, as the old hymn writer says:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.
Please let me know if I can help in any way.
For more information about Easter, Easter traditions, and related subjects:
- Introduction to Easter - A brief introduction and links to our other articles.
- Easter: Frequently Asked Questions - Want to know why Holy Week wanders around the calendar? What the Stations of the Cross are? Why we call Easter "Easter" when almost every other culture calls it "Pasch"? And many more.
- The Timeline of the Resurrection - If you read the gospel accounts one at a time, they can be confusing. This shows the timeline, as most people see it.
- Why Easter is Sacred to Me
- The Myth of the Myth of the Easter Bunny - Where did the Easter Bunny really come from and how did it get attached to so many urban legends?
- Timeline of Easter Traditions - how far back in time do Easter Eggs, or the Easter Bunny go? Did the church really start celebrating the Resurrection as late as the fourth century AD, as certain writers would have you believe? Was the ancient Teutonic deity some folk claim was the original source of all of our doctrine and celebrations of the Resurrection really - for all intents and purposes - invented eighteen centuries after Jesus' crucifixion?
- Eostre: Frequently Asked Questions - Why do we "know" so much about Jacob Grimm's hypothetical ancient Germanic goddess today when all we have is a single allusion ancient writings, and research has turned up no new facts since 725AD?
- Bede's Statement about the Saxon Name for Pasch (Easter) - A brief look at the only mention of anyone named anything like Eostre or Ostara in anywhere before 1835.
- Jacob Grimm - A brief look at Grimm's research and why this fairy-tale collector and linguist invented a hypothetical "ancient" Germanic goddess in 1935 and dubbed her Ostara (the German equivalent of the Saxon "Eostra").
- Pope Gregory's Letter to Mellitus - a look Pope Gregory's 601AD letter to a missionary trying to reach the Saxons in Britain. We list it here only because so many writers misrepresent its contents.
- To My Pagan Friends at Easter - A side note to folks who need to believe in something.
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